It’s 6:30 a.m., and thousands of people have gathered in the streets of downtown New Orleans, drinking, eating, and preparing for an event like no other. This isn’t your ordinary Saturday morning. This is New Orleans’s version of Spain’s Encierro de Pamplona, San Fermin in Nueva Orleans!
The “bulls” are actually the Big Easy Rollergirls (plus the participants from the other roller derby leagues across the country) on skates. The runners, wearing white with red accents, attempt to run away from the girls as they chase after them with wiffle ball bats. This eccentric festival will be taking place in New Orleans on the weekend of July 14-16, 2023, at location TBA (in the past, the event had started at The Sugar Mill).
The festival stretches over the weekend, but the run itself takes place on Saturday, July 15. Beginning at 6:30 a.m., join hundreds of runners, wearing all white and accessorized with red scarves and handkerchiefs. Live music, beer, sangria, and food trucks on-site get things going. The participants get the party started by saying a prayer to Saint Fermin (Pamplona’s patron saint). After the Procession of San Fermin and the Invocation, the race starts at 8 a.m. sharp.
While there is no dress code, the runners are encouraged to dress in the style of Spain’s Encierro de Pamplona: white top and bottom, with something red around the waist and the neck. This being New Orleans, many runners do, and get very creative with their gear. The Derby girls wear red and black with horns and various other accessories meant to intimidate the runners.
The pre- and post-run events
The run lasts till about noon. After that, you can attend the traditional La Fiesta de Pantalones, (2023 location TBA, the event starts at 11 a.m.) or join the other revelers who stick around to make a day of it bar-crawling downtown.
On Friday, July 14, the festival opens with El Txupinazo (pronounced “el choo-pin-AHT-so”), hosted by the charity that benefits from this festival, Beth’s Friends Forever. Again, the location is TBA but expect an auction, live music, and food from some of the top restaurants in New Orleans.
Recover the next day after the race at Sunday’s annual event, El Pobre de Mi (“Poor Me”), an Ernest Hemingway-themed party (location TBA), 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., with burlesque, cocktails, and a Papa Hemingway look-a-like contest. This is a non-ticketed event, and there’s no cover.
All events happening on Friday and Saturday are ticketed. Proceeds go to Beth’s Friends Forever, a charity named after Nola Bulls cofounder Beth Hanning, which raises money for financially needy women fighting cancer in the Greater New Orleans area.
On a final note, do NOT underestimate the “bulls” as they will not hold back when it comes to whacking participants with the wiffle ball bats. In fact, some participants really get into it and even yell at the bulls to entice them to chase after them. Dangerous? You’ll have to decide for yourself!
If you are visiting the Big Easy this summer, be sure to book your stay at The French Market Inn, a charming historic hotel in the New Orleans French Quarter located close to all of the festivals and excitement.